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January 6, 2015

Regulatory Update: Crop Protection Tools

The new California Legislature has arrived in Sacramento, and as a new two-year session begins, Western Growers staff is busy meeting with the newly sworn-in members of the Assembly and Senate.  This is an incredibly important time of year because of the fleeting opportunity we have in welcoming the members to Sacramento and introducing them to our association and our core policy concerns prior to their immersion in the daily legislative routine.

Among our policy priorities is the preservation of crop protection tools, which have come under increasing legislative and regulatory fire.  WG has a long history of advocating for the registration and safe use of pesticides that are critical in growing our state’s fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables.  California has the world’s most stringent pesticide use restrictions in place to protect human health and the environment.  Just as important, growers care about the environment, public health and the stewardship of their land.  WG continues to educate the Legislature and other government officials about the rigid and demanding registration and oversight system that California imposes on all crop protection products.  As long as the applicator is following the specific product’s label instructions, the toxicity and approved usage have been scientifically studied and the appropriate exposure mitigations are factored into the application instructions.

Furthermore, for restricted use materials including chloropicrin, 1,3-dichloropropene (1,3-D), and metam sodium, only a certified applicator can apply the product and prior notice must be given to the county agricultural commissioner.  A permit from the commissioner is then necessary prior to the application being conducted.  It is important to note that the commissioner has broad authority to approve or deny a permit and often specifies additional restrictions on when, where and how a product will be applied.  For example, a permit may be conditioned to allow the application to occur only on a non-windy day to further reduce risk of unintended exposure.

Unfortunately, a message continues to be pushed by activist groups that pesticides are not being adequately regulated within our state.  Their underlying message is that farm workers and people near farms, such as school children and residents, are being literally poisoned by drifting pesticides.  The title of a November article published by The Center for Investigative Reporting hints to this bias: “California’s strawberry industry is hooked on dangerous pesticides.” The article primarily focused on 1,3-D and chloropicrin.  Both of these active ingredients have been used in California agriculture for many decades to control a wide variety of diseases and pests that live in the soil.  Chloropicrin itself has been in use for more than 50 years and has a very strong safety record.  The idea that pesticide use regulations in California are inadequate couldn’t be further from the truth, and a thorough and unbiased review of the safety record confirms this fact.

Our goal is to continue standing resolute in ensuring that all growers (conventional and organic) have ready access to safe and effective crop protection tools.

We encourage our members to stay updated on Department of Pesticides Regulation’s rules on chloropicrin.  DPR released new proposed control measures for chloropicrin on May 15, 2013.  These proposed control measures are more stringent than both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and DPR’s current application requirements.  The new control measures likely will make changes to buffer zones, buffer zone credits, acreage application limits, the handling of overlapping buffer zones, emergency preparedness and response, notice of intent requirements and tarp cutting limitations.  WG staff is awaiting the release of DPR’s final control measures at the time of this writing in mid-December.

If you have any questions about any of these regulations, please contact WG staff for more information.